An impressive showcase for a genre-eschewing sound that’s impressively slippery.
Louis Pattison 2009
Ross Birchard first made his name as turntablist DJ Itchy who, aged just 15, battled his way to become the UK’s youngest ever DMC finalist. A few years on and, along with a string of artists like Flying Lotus and Rustie (his compadre in Glasgow’s LuckyMe collective), he’s one of the key exponents in a new sound variously called ‘wonky’ or ‘aquacrunk’ that draws on dubstep, US hip hop and RnB, and experimental electronica, binding the fusion together with slamming, slightly out-of-phase beats and synthesisers that wobble woozily, like they’ve warped after being left out in the sun.
It’s worth mentioning, mind, that Birchard has done his best to wriggle out of any genre category the critics have tried to place on his music. Worth mentioning, because Butter, his debut album for Warp, seems keener on exploring as much ground as possible rather than trying to crystallise any nascent sound. An opening rash of tracks suggests he gets a kick out of twisting sounds virtually out of recognition: the opening Shower Melody fires insane guitar soloing through a whirlpool of bubbling effects, while Gluetooth toys merrily with a chopped-up diva vocal pitched up so high that chipmunks would struggle to hear it, batting shrill squeals back and forth between humming synths and a thudding kick drum.
Butter isn’t without hints of Birchard’s turntablist past. Ideas come in flurries, sometimes discarded before they’ve had a chance to fully unfold. Joy Fantastic, an OutKast-tinged track fronted by bug-eyed soul vocalist Oliver Daysoul, is also not an unqualified success, playing it a little zany (although it might sit better amidst an album of similar).
Still, Butter as a whole feels like an impressive showcase for a sound that remains impressively slippery, and it’s worth staying tuned to the end for Allhot – a track featuring the wildly processed vocals of Glasgow vocalist Ciorsdan Brown that might just be the best future-RnB track to boast the Warp Records imprint since Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker.